NOW Telecom to pilot 5G in NCR

NOW Telecom Co. Inc. said it hopes to finish the 5G pilot in Metro Manila by the third or fourth quarter, as it aims to become the first telco company to offer true 5G in the country by 2024.

During the cybersecurity forum in Makati on Tuesday, NOW Telecom Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mel Velasco Velarde told reporters in an interview that the firm is set to conduct a 5G pilot network in multiple sites in the National Capital Region (NCR). The identified sides include key business areas and the central business districts of Makati, Taguig, Ortigas, and Quezon City.

This development came after it signed the P118-million grant agreement with the United States government to expand the 5G connectivity in the Philippines during the 10th US-Philippines Bilateral Strategic Dialogue in Manila last week.

Through the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), the fund will enable NOW Telecom to conduct a feasibility study for establishing a 5G pilot network in different parts of the Metro.

The company has tapped New Jersey-based Bell Labs Consulting, part of Bell Labs—the research arm of Nokia—to do the research.

Per the US embassy in the Philippines, the study seeks “to validate network performance, test 5G use cases, and provide data to inform larger scale deployment.”

“After that, what the US government wanted to know is exactly how much money is needed to deploy 5G nationwide and the national broadband network nationwide,” Velarde said.

“Once the amount is determined based on a study of building the optimum network, then we will go to the next stage—financing [and] equity raising—to really do this up to the countryside.”

According to Velarde, the pilot test will be for the rollout of 5G mobile and fixed wireless network. There will be “five loads that will be the basis for the expansion” and, then, determination of the performance and some metrics that will indicate the experience not primarily of enterprises, but as well as certain industries and even the households.”

“Our existing clients will enjoy that also,” he added, while citing that network and radio equipment, core network and software produced by Nokia Americas will be deployed during the initial Metro Manila run, which will then be extended to some strategic locations. “[Maybe in] one of our 55 base stations because right now we have 400 enterprise customers.”

The US grant will finance NOW Telecom’s effort to establish a wireless telephony network using 5G technology to boost connectivity services all over the country.

Being a telco provider, the company wants to own a standalone 5G network that can extend internet connectivity and increase market competition in the long haul. Currently, it offers pre-5G via the Fiber Air.

Velarde said the company can have the commercial rollout of true 5G immediately after the pilot.